Since we arrived late in Volterra the previous day, we had a quick walk around the town before we packed up and hit the road to Siena. Starting with a height advantage helped, but the overall trip was still long, and it was a brutally hot day at times.
We stopped for a break at the medieval fort of Monteriggioni halfway along the route to Siena. The road up and through the town gate was so steep that it had ridges created by interleaving the paving stones to give extra traction!
One of the gates into Monteriggioni.
The fort/town is one of Siena’s defensive structures built around the 13th century to protect trade routes against attacks from their rival Florence. In fact, this is where the Dante Alleghieri hid out after he had angered some powerful Florentines with his caricatures of them in his Inferno. It still has all of its tall walls and 13 turrets intact.
Main square of Monteriggioni
Siena is possibly a challenger to Florence, in terms of having impressive structures. Siena has wide streets line with 4, 5 and often times 6 story stone buildings, whereas Florentine streets are smaller and jam-packed with shorter buildings (which rarely surpass 3 stories), and aesthetically are less pleasing.
A square lined with the former homes of the Sienese elite.
Conversely, while Florence’s grand cathedral is monstrously sized, the smaller Sienese counterpart is far more refined, with very accurate stonework and an ornate floor – complete with tricolour stone engravings of saints and some scenes from the life of Jesus. One can only imagine the time and resources put into such art work.
Interior – Siena Cathedral
Exterior – Siena cathedral
Surely one of the highlights of our two days in Siena was the town square, il campo, which is a huge semi-circular piazza with a concave brick centre. We ate dinner in one of the trattoiri of the square on our first night.
Town hall and the surrounding Il Campo piazza.
In Siena, we were lucky to have our hotel right beside a camping store and a grocery store. We bought a gas cartridge for my camp stove and then some pasta, and made our own dinner the second night.
We (*Steve*) accidently bought some bad beer for our dinner aperitives; it had a gross after-taste! If you look carefully at the bottle, the monk seems to be holding his stomach in protest:
Here are some more pics of our stay:
Cathedral from nearby wall.
Old city gate.
In the bapistry.
Medieval songbook from cathedral library.
The sienese tried to copy (and best) Florence’s city hall with theirs.